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Friday, April 21, 2006

Youth Feeling Isolated

How to Overcome This Feeling
By Ibtisaam Riad**
6 April, 2006


It can be said that the most trying time of our lives is the transition from childhood into mature adulthood, in other words, youth. This period lasts until young people develop free thinking and independent personalities with their own identity consisting of principles, values and belief systems.

During this time, many youth become hedonistic, seeking short term pleasures, cheap thrills, and quick fixes. Many of them become obsessed with extreme culture and make rash decisions which adversely affect the rest of their lives. Interacting or socializing with the wrong kind of friends or company will affect young people.

On the positive side, there are the youth who are driven to search for more meaning to their lives and to expand their energy with values that are lasting investments for their future and the life to come — these type of youth revert to Islam! For young people born into a Muslim family, reverting to Islam means reinventing an Islamic identity based on Qur'an and Sunnah of our beloved Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and the examples of the great salaf (forbearers).

It is during this time that young people experience opposition from previous friends and usually have to withdraw themselves from their usual crowd to keep on the straight path. They undergo many internal battles in their attempt to discipline their once wayward self. As a result, many of them may feel isolated, despondent, fearful, and anxious. It is crucial at this time to surround themselves with good friends, strong family, and community support that can provide them with Islamic outlets for social and leisure time and support them in maintaining strong Islamic morals and principles in their everyday life. It would be good for youth who feel this isolation to mix with friends on their level, getting their family to praise and help them in anyway possible and for them to attend lectures, social gatherings, and youth centers. This may help them to overcome the isolation they feel.

For good role models, we can direct youth towards studying the lives of the magnanimous youth that surrounded the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) during his life time, such as `Ali bin Abi Talib, Zaid ibn Thabit, Abdullah ibn `Abbas, Usamah ibn Zaid (may Allah be pleased with them all) as well as `A'ishah (may Allah be pleased with her). They all faced complete isolation and rejection from other youth in their small and confined community, but it was their intense sincerity and piety that pushed them to heights that astonished their generations as well as the older generations. In actual fact, in our modern century, they are still taken as role models amongst the youth. The brave acts of `Ali (may Allah be pleased him) before the Hijrah are still viewed as good examples — `Ali was prepared to lie in the bed of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and to sacrifice himself for the love of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him). Another example of how Allah raised the status of these youth is that of Abdullah ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) who was seen as too young by the older Companions to sit in their company. He then proved himself by giving a tafseer, which the older companions didn't know, of Surah An-Nasr (Surah 110). In addition, Usama ibn Zaid was made the general of the Muslim army at the age of 20, while the older Companions were only soldiers in the army.

These great pioneers of Islam overcame many obstacles, such as rejection and isolation in their youth, in a community where they were made to be the outcasts because of their beliefs. Yet despite all of their hardships, they kept the light of Islam shining.

As for my personal experience, as well as other students studying deen with me, we have learned to live with and overcome isolation and rejection from peer groups in a Western society by being an example of youth who combine piety (love of deen) with fun. In other words, being pious doesn't mean that you have to be boring. My friends and I still love going out, going to movies, or having a barbecue, but all of our activities are within the laws of the deen.

Let us take our Islam as an amanah (security). I can only call you towards being patient in the face of adversity and trials as surely Allah rewards the patient ones and promises them relief, "Surely with every difficulty comes ease." (Ash-Sharh 94:5)

Suhayb (may Allah be pleased with him) reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, "A believer's affair is a wonderful thing. All of his affairs are good, and that is not the case of anyone but a believer. If good times befall him he is thankful, and thus it is good for him and if bad times befall him he is patient, and thus it is good for him." (Muslim)

[Oh you who believe! Seek help in patience and prayer; truly Allah is with the patient ones.] (Al-Baqarah 2:153)

I ask Allah to keep us steadfast on the straight path and to reward us for our strivings so that it may benefit our communities, families, and the rest of the Muslim Ummah.

May Allah forgive us, guide us, and have mercy on us. Ameen.


**Ibtisaam Riad is a youth worker from Cape Town, South Africa, currently furthering her studies at Al-Azhar in Cairo, Egypt.

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